Richard Lazar is advancing in years but regressing in life. After a career as a literary novelist that has ground to a halt and landed him in a trailer in Phoenix, Richard is surprised to find sudden success publishing a gritty memoir about his service in Vietnam. Sent on a book tour by his publishing house, Richard encounters his biggest (and really only) fan: an awkward, despondent student named Vance with issues of his own (an absentee father, a depressive mother, his own acute shyness). Soon Vance has volunteered to chauffeur Richard for the rest of the book tour, and the two embark on a disastrous but often hilarious cross-country trip. When things go wrong, Richard and Vance forge an unlikely bond between two misanthropes whose mutual insecurities and disdain for the world force both to look at each other, and their lives, in a more meaningful way.
My take: 5 looks
A beautifully written story of the short crossing-of-paths between an old, curmudgeonly writer with his first taste of fame, and a young writer-in-waiting, still sure that the written word holds for him the promise of a future.
Richard is completely unlikable. He lies, drinks, sneaks, and wears his lifetime of regret like a garment. However, he is very likeable. One of his most introspective moments gave me this great quote:
Of course, it was he who was the pile of shit. He felt, in fact, that he was made of shit. Bullshit, dogshit, horseshit, ratshit, chickenshit. His mental and physical state constituted a sort of Pouisse-Café of shit – an elaborate stratification of shit that comingled to crate a shitty whole that was much shittier than the sum of its shitty parts. Immediate, automatic remorse was the greasy top layer of shit, which bubbled on top of the churning shit of his hangover, which was generously layered on top of the firmer soil bed of his bad health and drinking and desire for alcohol, which itself sat on top of untold, fossilized geological strata of guilt and fear, decades – a lifetime – of shit. Chapter 5
This gives the reader great insight into Richard. He knows how he is. He knows why he is this way. But, at this point, he feels that he is probably too far gone for any significant change. He is honest about who he is, and he offers this honesty to all those around him, giving them the benefit of his experience.
Then there is Vance. Vance is instantly likable as the neophyte fan who volunteers to pick up Richard from the airport, as Richard begins his first ever book tour. Vance manages to finagle his way into a more substantial spot on Richard’s book tour; and, you guessed it, we begin The Grand Tour.
The characters and the writing of this book meld into a wonderful journey. You almost wince at places, and want to turn your eyes to avoid what you know is coming next. But rather than being predictable, it is more of a well-worn path that you choose to walk with these two.
A colorful menagerie of complimenting characters add a nice spice to this main dish, and serves to move the story and characters along on their journey.
Available August 9th 2016 by Doubleday, I highly recommend this one. It is on my list of 2016 favorites. Thanks to NetGalley for providing a copy for this honest review.